Industrial Cooperation Project

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URL = http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/Industrial_Cooperation_Project [1]

Description

The Project

"Despite the growing popular and academic recognition of the importance of commons-based, cooperative, and peer production, there is still relatively little sustained academic work that studies both the scope and micro-foundations of these phenomena. Together, the rise of commons-based collaboration and production encompasses a class of innovative and creative practices whose outputs could be freely available to support human development in a global, networked information economy and society.

The purpose of the Cooperation Project was to allow the Berkman Center for Internet and Society to develop a more comprehensive map of current practices, and a basic set of methodological tools and approaches, to allow the continued study of commons-based practices, both online and offline, as well as large-scale networked cooperation. To this end, the proposal envisioned two tracks within a single study.

One track would focus on defining verticals within existing industries, and would map those industries in terms of the degree to which open and commons-based practices were used as compared to proprietary approaches. This mapping would also analyze who was using such commons-based strategies, and provide initial pointers for future political alliances on issues of patent and copyright policy. We now call this track the Industrial Cooperation Project (ICP), which is the focus of this ICP Wiki. The second track would focus on developing new approaches to studying online cooperation on a much larger and more comprehensive scale than attempted in the past. We call this track the Online Cooperation Research group.

We hired two Fellows to direct the two parts of the project. Carolina Rossini was the project manager of the ICP, from 2008 to 2010. Aaron Shaw was the project manager for the OCR, from 2008 to 2009. Each has worked to develop a methodological framework, cooperative research infrastructure, and to hire and train researchers to assist with the research.


The initial research questions that motivated this study were:

  • How are components of the industrial structure changing in how they deal with and manage knowledge embedded assets, in different industries, different business models, and different sets of actors?
  • How (and if) are they incorporating commons based strategy?


Thus, the Institutional Cooperation Project focused on understanding how institutions shape the kind of organization available for sustainable human cooperation (social, economic and political behavior). This focus is also neeed in order to understand to what extent and how the Intellectual Property System affects cooperation in different sectors. As Benkler wrote: “If some information producers do not need to capture the economic benefits of their particular information outputs, or if some businesses can capture the economic value of their information production by means other than exclusive control over their products, then the justification for regulating access by granting copyrights or patents is weakened”.

The project was primarily a mapping exercise, where we were trying to capture the evolving constituencies strategies in a certain field/market towards “closedness” or “openness” and how the closure or opening impacted innovation. We also looked at the motivations and driving forces around cooperation - is there a demand pressure, change in government regulation, competition, new business models, etc?


The Wiki

"Despite the growing popular and academic recognition of the importance of commons-based, cooperative, and peer production, there is still relatively little sustained academic work that studies both the scope and micro-foundations of these phenomena. Together, the rise of commons-based collaboration and production encompasses a class of innovative and creative practices whose outputs could be freely available to support human development in a global, networked information economy and society.

The study was conceived to extend the work initially outlined in Wealth of Networks - which is currently being pursued as part of the Berkman Center's Cooperation Project - to provide a map of commons-based production and cooperative peer production today. The initial task proposed was to look systematically at a wide range of information and knowledge production sectors, to identify commons-based and peer production practices, list them, describe them, and categorize them.

The Wealth of Networks began the task of looking at various “verticals” or industry sectors that had a major impact on development, like educational materials, biological innovation around both health and food, and software and information technology, and outlined then-present practices aimed at provisioning these goods on commons-based models. The study began partly by taking that approach and mapping presently-practiced commons-based production into these verticals. The practices were not limited directly to development, because the objective is to learn about the range of feasible practices, rather than to identify direct inputs to development today. In addition to searching in development-related verticals, the study also sought to identify commons-based and peer-production practices that reflect different types cooperative production. There is at present very little serious work on mapping and categorizing the wide range of practices of cooperation, peer production, and large-scale coordinate productive behavior observed. One aspect of the study required the creation of the first elements of such an intellectual mapping.

Finally, the project explored the construction of an experimental, web-based platform for enabling participants in, and observers of, collaborative and commons-based practices to describe their own experiences and communities, and to comment on and annotate the descriptions of others.

There are two outputs to the project. One is the synthesis of the research - the ICP Synthesis - , which pulls together the high-level results, examines some trends identified by the research, and identifies questions for additional research. We created a broad map of cooperation across the fields of educational materials, biotechnology, alternative energy, and telecommunications, and we found some interesting preliminary trends about commons-based production and industrial cooperation that emerge in and across those fields. The canonical version of this synthesis is found on the Industrial Cooperation Wiki - ICP Wiki

The second is the wiki itself - rather than pursue a more traditional path of data collection into a private archive, we collected the vast majority of our work into this public commons. The wiki is the collective memory of the project. It is where the research assistants and fellows kept their notes, where reading was summarized, where hypotheses were examined and evaluated (and often discarded). As such, it is a rich resource for future work but it is not a polished resource. We hope that future researchers not only mine the wiki but improve it through cross-linking, editing, adding citations, translating text into other languages, and more. Using the wiki for this purpose was part of the experiment of the research, to try novel methods for research collaboration as we examined industrial collaboration. The ICP Wiki also hosts the ICP Parking Lot for fascinating ideas that emerged but could not be studied in depth." (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/Main_Page)


Discussion

Sectoral Overview

URL = http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/Biotechnology_-_Genomic_and_Proteomics

"The Biotechnology - Genomic and Proteomics sector has enormous potential implications for global health and food security; has well developed variability in practices, with some of the most proprietary alongside some of the most open and collaborative efforts. It therefore is a substantively important area and a potential model for our analysis more broadly. See the BGP Synthesis here and working papers here.

ICP Synthesis, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Sectors ICP Working Papers, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Reports_and_Working_Papers


URL = http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/Alternative_Energy

The second sector is one of enormous importance, but one for which there has been practically no work done on innovation policy to foster cooperation and knowledge sharing — Alternative Energy. Here, the practices are less well developed, there is no real structure for commons-based practices, but there is substantial and interesting support from the current United States Department of Energy to embrace innovation-sharing practices as part of the global effort to address climate change and sustainability. In this regard, the area is important, and particularly fertile for developing new political alliances around questions of innovation and development as checks on IP. See the AE Synthesis here and working papers here.

ICP Synthesis, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Sectors ICP Working Papers, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Reports_and_Working_Papers


URL = http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/Educational_Materials

The third sector is central to education — that is, Educational Materials. This area is intermediate in the development of commons-based practices, counting large and historically powerful incumbents supported by regulation and practices such as the textbook adoption process within K-12. However, the impact of technology and emergence of new business models, the maturity of open educational resources projects, and, primarily the recognition of those by the Obama administration as central to improve educational opportunities to all Americans, among other forces, may shape the future of this field.See the EM Synthesis here and working papers here.

ICP Synthesis, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Sectors ICP Working Papers, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Reports_and_Working_Papers


URL = http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/Telecommunications

The fourth sector, which we studied through an arrangement with an independent expert, was Telecommunications, and in particular innovation in telecommunications. Here, much of the work that is open is done in standards setting, and the debates over telecommunications regulation take on some of the same characteristics as the debates over patents and copyrights in the other areas. See the Telecom working paper here.

ICP Synthesis, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Sectors ICP Working Papers, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/commonsbasedresearch/ICP_Reports_and_Working_Papers